ALAMEDA -- New York's vibrant Washington Heights neighborhood comes to Alameda as St. Joseph Notre Dame High School presents the Tony Award-winning musical "In The Heights" from March 7-15.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical pictures a community on the brink of change where three generations of music breezes out of open windows and young residents wrestle with keeping or leaving behind various traditions.

"Doing this show is a huge undertaking, but it's achievable because the kids at St. Joseph are so well suited for this musical," said director Lauren Rosi. "One of the reasons I chose this show is because the Washington Heights neighborhood is a real mix of cultures and very family-oriented, and at St. Joseph, we pride ourselves on our diverse population of students and the feeling of community here."

When Rosi first brought up the possibility of doing the show, her students had never heard of it and were less than enthusiastic.

"But then I played them the music and they, literally overnight, fell in love with it," she said. "I come from a big Italian family, and I'm super-proud of my heritage, and these kids are also so proud of where they come from and to be able to tell a story that really represents the school and represents them on stage is really important. They understand the story and feel connected to it."

St. Joseph Notre Dame recently reinstated theater in the curriculum, including a class and productions and an after-school program.


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"The school has been incredibly supportive and even raised money to renovate my classroom into a fully functional black box theater and dance studio," Rosi explained.

"In The Heights" will be the first production performed off-campus at the recently renovated Michaan's Auction House Theater on the Alameda Naval Base.

"It's an unknown gem in Alameda -- just stunning," Rosi said.

A student cast of 26, crew of 30 and a student orchestra have been hard at work learning the contemporary Latin-flavored music and dance numbers.

"The kids have really taken ownership of this project," Rosi said. "They show up to rehearsal when they're not called, they know each other's parts, and cover for each other when someone isn't there. I've also seen them teaching each other the choreography during lunch. Their hearts are in it. As a director and a teacher, you can't ask for anything else."

Helping tell the story of this tight-knit community on the northern tip of Manhattan are music director Matthew Wolka, choreographer Dane Paul Andres, and lighting designer Christian Mejia.

"Dane comes from a hip-hop background and is the perfect choice to choreograph the numbers," Rosi said. "The music can be pretty challenging, but we have the vocalists who can sing it. I would put them up against anyone in a professional audition."

FYI
St. Joseph Notre Dame's production of the Tony Award-winning musical "In The Heights" runs at 7:30 p.m. March 7-8; 2 p.m. March 9; 7:30 p.m. March 14; and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 15. The musical will be at the Michaan Auction House Theater, 2700 Saratoga St., Alameda. For tickets, go to www.sjnd.org.